This post introduces important Japanese words and cultures about drinking!
Table of Contents
酒 (さけ, sake)
In Japanese, “sake” denotes any type of alcohol including wine and whisky. More politely, it’s called お酒 (osake).
日本酒 (にほんしゅ, nihonshu)
Meaning: Japanese sake
It’s also called ぽんしゅ (ぽんしゅ, ponshu), which sounds more casual.
居酒屋 (いざかや, izakaya)
Meaning: a Japanese-style bar
It has several unique systems as explained below.
お通し (おとうし, otoushi)
Meaning: a small appetiser which is served upon entry
Most izakaya restaurants require you to pay for this as an entry fee, whether you like it or not.
飲み放題 (のみほうだい, nomihoudai)
Meaning: All-you-can-drink system
When you order nomihoudai, you can have any drinks on the nomihoudai-specific menu without additional fees for a certain amount of time (usually 2h, with the last orders set at 30 mins before). Surprisingly, it can be as cheap as 1000 yen for 2 hours, but in such a case you cannot expect good quality, apparently. Note that when you go to izakaya in a group and order nomihoudai, usually every participant has to pay for it regardless of the number of drinks they actually have.
Types of 飲み会 (nomi kai)
飲み会 (のみかい, nomi kai)
Meaning: a gathering with drinks
It’s usually held at izakaya. There are various types of 飲み会 with different themes, as shown below.
忘年会 (ぼうねんかい, bounen kai)
Meaning: a gathering with drinks held at the end of a year
It literally means “forget-year party/gathering”. It’s a Japanese tradition to have drinks with colleagues and friends near the end of the year and forget about the bad things that happened in the year by drinking.
新年会 (しんねんかい, shinnen kai)
Meaning: a gathering with drinks held at the beginning of a year
It literally means “New Year party/gathering” and is usually held in early~mid Jan.
Meaning: a gathering (with drinks) held in spring under a cherry blossom tree
It literally means “flower viewing”. It’s a Japanese tradition to have food and drinks under a cherry blossom tree while enjoying the view of the beautiful flowers. Some people do this without drinks, but most people get drunk and forget about the flowers about 30 mins after the gathering starts.
納涼会 (のうりょうかい, nouryou kai)
Meaning: a party/gathering with drinks held in summer
It literally means “Taking in Coolness gathering”. It’s a Japanese tradition to have drinks (esp. cold beer) in summer to get oneself immune to the muggy weather and forget about it.
宅飲み (たくのみ, taku nomi)
Meaning: a gathering with drinks at someone’s house
This is very popular among college students.
Words that Mean “Drunk”
酔う (よう, you)
Meaning: to get drunk
Also 酔っ払う (よっぱらう, yopparau)
ほろ酔い (ほろよい, horoyoi)
There is a Japanese canned alcoholic beverage called “horoyoi”, which contains a low alcohol content (< 3%) and is very popular among people who can’t drink much.
出来上がる (できあがる, dekiagaru)
Meaning: to get drunk and be in a good mood
Literally, it means “get completed/finished”, as in 彼の作品が出来上がった meaning “His work got completed”. It is often used to describe people who are apparently drunk and having a good time (which does not always mean a good time for other people).
泥酔する (でいすいする, deisui suru)
Meaning: to get completely drunk
Meaning: an onomatopoeia for being very drunk
べろべろに酔う means “to get very drunk” and べろべろだ means “be very drunk”. It’s written either in hiragana べろべろ or katakana ベロベロ.
潰れる (つぶれる, tsubureru)
Meaning: to get wrecked
As in English, 潰れる has both literal and figurative meanings of “crushed/wrecked”, e.g. 潰れた缶 means “a crushed can” and 飲み過ぎて潰れた means “I had too many drinks and got wrecked”.
二日酔い (ふつかよい, futsuka yoi)
Literally, it means “two-day drunk”.
酒癖が悪い (さけぐせがわるい, sakeguse ga warui)
Meaning: to behave badly whenever getting drunk
It’s used to describe someone who behaves differently and aggressively whenever he/she gets drunk.
Meaning: to build a good relationship by drinking together
It combines 飲む (nomu, “to drink”) and コミュニケーション (“communication”). However, its concept is getting out of date; see this blog post for more details.
飲兵衛(のんべえ, nonbee)/飲み助(のみすけ, nomisuke)
Meaning: a drink lover
Both words were presumably coined from real person’s names; in the old days, 兵衛（べえ）and 助 (すけ) were commonly used in Japanese names, such as 権兵衛 (ごんべえ) and 愛之助 (あいのすけ). While 兵衛 now sounds old-fashioned and is rarely used, 助 is still used in some names, such as “慎之助 (しんのすけ)”
やけ酒 (やけざけ, yakezake)
Meaning: to drink a lot to forget about devastating events one has experienced
In other words, it means “to drink with a やけくそ (yakekuso) mind”.
アル中 (あるちゅう, aruchuu)
Meaning: an alcohol addict
It is short for アルコール中毒 (alcohol addiction).
迎え酒 (むかえざけ, mukae zake)
Meaning: hair of the dog; having drinks to cure a hangover
Usually, people don’t this do unless they’re アル中.
Meaning: harassment that involves alcohol
It’s short for “alcohol harassment”. A typical act of “alhara” is to force someone to drink.
He is a drink lover and behaves badly whenever he gets drunk. Yesterday, he also had lots of drinks, became very drunk, and got completely wrecked by himself. I’ve heard that the next day he had a hangover and took hair of the dog, and got wrecked again. He’s such an alcohol addict!